It was pointed out to me that the writing I am engaging in/transcribing onto the rice paper scrolls is constrained. So I am experimenting with a more gestural approach, scale and abstraction. I am starting to think that the current covid situation is clouding my thoughts. Perhaps my intention is not as simple as commenting on the influx of information. Perhaps there is something–a feeling–that persists from before and that I struggle to make front and center.
- black or perhaps a deep blue/black
- lots of space
- perhaps it is fuzzy
- large, very large
- it stares at you
- the sound of a gong or meditation bell
I read a quote by Martin Heidegger; it’s from his book The Concept of Time. I don’t know much at all about Heidegger or his ideas but this got my attention:
Now, as I do this; now, as the light here goes out, for instance. What is the now? Is the now at my disposal? Am I the now? Is every other person the now? Then time would indeed be I myself, and every other person would be time. And in our being with one another we would be time–everyone and no one. Am I the now, or only the one who is saying this?The Concept of Time, 1924, page 5
Using Heidegger’s first few words in that paragraph, and using them as a prompt, I started writing a sort of poem–something which I never have done. Here’s a small sample (this is just something I am playing with, it’s not polished or anything and it might not go anywhere):
How does this fit in with what I’ve beein doing/collecting? This is more personal while everything else has been about something that already exists out there, produced by culture. I am thinking about how the personal can co-exist with the public–I’m not sure ‘public’ is the right word, and I’m not sure ‘political’ fits either right now, at this stage. But, this writing and the collecting (see previous posts) share handwriting as a visual element, a mode of expression.
On October 10, I received the news that Zia Sandrina had died that morning. Sandrina is my aunt in San Benedetto del Tronto (Italy) with whom I lived for a year when I was 14, and whom I had visited in 2002. Sandrina was a few months from turning 100 years old!!!
Sandrina did not die of covid, but because of covid she died alone in a hospital. That cold fact is hard to imagine…to die alone, in a strange place, with perhaps no one next to your side, and after having lived such a long life, that, is, a cold fact of life.
I got the news on my cell phone as I checked email. Such important news received in such a cold manner makes me wonder about the coldness of technology. Would receiving a handwritten letter be better, nicer, more human? I am not begrudging the messengers of the news but only feeling the coldness of technology, how it unceremoniusly sends the news. Sandrina deserves more, better. I am noticing and witnessing this moment.
I have settled on writing the news headlines–I’ve been collecting since March–on rice paper scrolls. Written on this material and in my hand writing they seem poetic. Their power is taken away. Is this a way of processing? Of witnessing? Of being present?
On Kawara (1932-2014) was a Japanese conceptual artist who lived in New York City from 1965.
“Kawara belonged to a broadly international generation of Conceptual artists that began to emerge in the mid-1960s, stripping art of personal emotion, reducing it to nearly pure information or idea and greatly playing down the art object. Along with Lawrence Weiner, Joseph Kosuth, Hanne Darboven and others, Kawara gave special prominence to language.” (source: wikipedia)
I don’t want to strip art of personal emotion, quite the contrary, intensity of emotion is imporant to me. But like the conceptual artists mentioned above, in my current project, I am presenting information and I am playing down the art object. I am interested in the ephemerality of news headlines. Text does appear often in my work.
I am interested in Kawara’s work because of his use of repetition and engagement in routine/ritual and process-oriented projects that span long periods of time. Although his work is minimalist, the postcard series feel personal and impersonal at the same time.
I am most drawn to On Kawara’s postcard series:
“… include[s] the I Went and I Met series of postcards sent to his friends detailing aspects of his life, and a series of telegrams sent to various people bearing the message “I AM STILL ALIVE”. Between 1968 and 1979, On Kawara created his information series, I Got Up, in which he sent two picture postcards from his location on that morning. All of the 1,500 cards list the artist’s time of getting up, the date, the place of residence and the name and address of the receiver another series of postcards, I Got Up At, rubber-stamped with the time he got up that morning. The length of each correspondence ranged from a single card to hundreds sent consecutively over a period of months; the gesture’s repetitive nature is counterbalanced by the artist’s peripatetic global wanderings and exceedingly irregular hours (in 1973 alone he sent postcards from twenty-eight cities).” (source: wikipedia)
More on On Kawara on theartstory.org.
Since Covid-19 was declared a public health emergency in BC on March 17, I have been collecting news headlines. Collecting has involved hand recording in my sketchbook Covid-related news headlines recommended by my browser. I also kept track of other types of data, e.g. hashtags, statistics, and vocabulary or sentences that have become common use.
While at first I was thinking of making a quilt—an object of comfort—with selected headlines, I am now focused on showing the headlines in their entirety in handwritten format, and through this process I want to draw attention to the act of hand recording as a daily practice and to reflect on what it means to engage in this act.
I am currently re-recording the headlines (by hand) on long, scroll-like sheets of rice paper with the intention of reproducing the headlines from each month since March, and up to end of the year, on each sheet of paper. I am finding this act is slowing me down and allowing me to re-visit what the news focused on at the beginning of the pandemic. I am approaching this work as a process-oriented endeavour, perhaps exploring the embodied experience to see what emerges.
Display ideas/how to share the work: At the moment, it seems obvious that the scroll-like sheets could be displayed on the gallery walls. Having nine sheets would create a visual impact. The size of the writing draws the viewer in closer to be able to read. I am also exploring the idea of displaying all my research/data collection material on a table.
Research: I see the re-writing as research of embodied experience. I will also explore producing a book of new headlines for posterity, and producing a newspaper of new headlines. I will be looking at artists whose work engages with embodied experience and daily practice. One of the artists I am looking at so far is On Kawara.
Keywords I am working with: daily practice, repetition, uncertainty, being present, posterity, ephemerality, embodied experience, ceremony/closure (I am thinking of burning the scrolls when Covid is not an issue anymore—a performance/participatory component of the project), art/life merging
The materials/techniques/equipment needs are fairly basic at the moment: handwriting on rice paper scrolls, using bookbinding equipment in the printmaking studio, using the DOC for newspaper production.
I welcome any artist references you may have for my research phase. Please leave a comment here. Thank you!! Two were mentioned at the first ‘crit’ (not really a crit, more of a feedback session): Roman Opalka and Carolyn Wren, and I’ve looked at On Kawara.
I am starting to think of this work as a ‘collection.’
My ritual morning walk (or maybe check-in) to the Fraser River.
This is what I did Friday and Sunday for 5 hours total (with breaks): I wrote almost all the news headlines I had recorded in March. The studio was deserted on Sunday, so it was really quiet. I listened to the art history lecture–on modernism–from the course I’m auditing.
I asked myself how it felt to re-write these headlines in this way–on a large and long piece of paper…sitting on the floor, on a chair, going up a ladder. I felt it was more of an embodied experience than when I was writing them in my sketchbook. Definitely, a calmer experience. It was like processing, working through something.